Tag Archives: child custody

How to Handle Your Little Monsters

Dealing with Kids of Divorce on Halloween

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The pumpkins are carved, the ghosts are hung and the Disney Princess and Storm Trooper costumes have been purchased.  Everything is all set for creepily jovial, sugar-high fueled fun!  Everything, that is, except the logistics regarding who is taking the kids trick-or-treating; you or your ex.  Uh-oh.  This could be a potentially frightening night, for all the wrong reasons.

Before you end up forever haunted by the memory of this spooky holiday, let’s take a look at what the divorce experts have to say about successfully wrangling the wee ones this year.  We’ve collected information from Diane L. Danois, J.D., bonusfamilies, hermentorcenter.com, brendashoshanna.weebly.com and divorce360.com in an effort to keep the kids grinning widely on this much Hallowed Eve.

Some holidays can be tough for divorced parents; luckily Halloween typically isn’t one of them

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Determining who will have custody of the kids on Christmas/Hanukkah or Thanksgiving can be a truly trying experience.  Expectations from both sides of the families can be huge (“I need to see my beautiful grandchildren on the high holy days!”)  Thankfully, Halloween isn’t really viewed as that important to most parents (the kids don’t even get off from school), so relinquishing control of the tykes usually isn’t that big of a deal.  On the other hand, Halloween is very highly regarded in the kid community as much celebrated and glorious day (they get to dress up AND eat a bag a’ candy), so it’s important to think about their wants more than your own.

Come Together?

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Unlike a lot of other holidays, actually sharing the evening experience with your ex can be decent (granted, depending on how much you would like to see your ex as an actual skeleton, of course).  The kids are obviously adorable in their little Batman and Frozen outfits and the atmosphere is generally light (despite the frolicking devils, witches and demons, naturally).  Pairing up with your ex partner to drive your offspring door to door to beg for cavity inducing morsels can be a relatively harmless experience, all things considered.

Pick your Poison

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If you fall into the ‘I can’t even be in the same room as my ex without taking a machete to them’ camp, then taking the kids out together is not really an option.  So, you need to decide who will mind them.  The easiest solution?  Whoever enjoys the holiday more themselves should take them.  Meaning, if you revel in all the ghoulish elements yourself, the result is that your children will have more fun with you.  The whole point of this day is for your babes to have a good time, so obviously put their interests first (C’mon, you’re a parent; you should be beyond used to this).  Another factor that can help you and your ex decide who should have them this eerie eve is if your kids have a group of like-minded goblins they want to troll a particular neighborhood for Reese’s with.  If they have a set cadre of trick/treating chums, let whichever parent is more conveniently situated, geographically, have them.  It just makes the most sense and won’t confuse the kids at all.

You’re the (Boogey) Boss

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All of the professionals in the child psychology field unanimously seem to agree that this should be your decision (who takes whom), not your kids.  Putting them in the middle is not a good idea (clearly there are few, if any, circumstances where this is advocated).  You and your ex should determine who’s taking them beforehand and then that’s it, end of discussion.  The final nail in the coffin…

Play Nice

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As with all holidays in general, the kinder you can be (or at least appear) to your ex in front of your kids, the better for their overall well-being.  Nobody wants to see Mummy and Dad-ula arguing about petty things on a day that’s supposed to be full of creepy cheer.  Slap a grin on your face and get through the day; you’ll have the rapidly approaching Thanksgiving to grumble about soon enough.

Keep your Solo Spirits Up!

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Finally, if you hand the kids off to your ex and will be spending the night by your lonesome, don’t let the little ones think you are sad about it.  Wish them luck in scaring the other kids so bad that they wet their pants, kiss their clown-make-up laden cheeks, check to see if they’re wearing those annoying reflectors you got them and send them on their merry way.  Even if you’ll be Netflixing a scary movie all alone, make sure the kids think you are genuinely happy about it.  Nobody wants to treat-or-treat while thinking about how sad their left behind parent is (womp womp).

Follow these scarily simple tips and a good night will be had by all.  Then, you will have truly earned the right to ransack their sugary loot and gorge yourself silly on mini-Snickers.

-Joe Leone 

Things Only a Divorced Parent Understands

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Amicable or not, getting divorced is never going to be a picnic.

When there are children in the equation, things can be exponentially more challenging/maddening.  Aside from the initial concern of “How is this ordeal affecting my delicate offspring?” there are a variety of other issues sure to pop up.   There’s the time you will have to spend apart from your kids, their newfound perception of you and a host of other mentally taxing dilemmas only a single-parent can comprehend.

Here’s a list of the common conundrums that we’ve identified, and how they ultimately can translate into positive experiences in the end.

  • “You’re no fun!” – nothing can be as infuriating as hearing about how much FUN it is at your ex-spouse’s domicile of debauchery.  “Dad let’s me eat Count Chocula for dinner!” …sorry, guess you’re the über boring one since you care about your child’s health.

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positive spin:  When your children are older/grown, they will recognize they you were the parent who was truly looking out for their welfare, and not just providing easy/popular solutions.

  • It can feel a trifle lonely when your child is at your ex’s, ostensibly having a good time without you.  You used to be instrumental in everything they did – now you may feel like your watching from the sidelines.

positive spin: When your child comes home and tells you how much they missed you.  This will never get old.

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  • You now have to monitor every little word that escapes your mouth, as your spawn gobbles them up and giddily reiterates them to your ex.  Heaven forbid if you should accidentally let a remark specifically about your former spouse slip out…

positive spin: Realize that the exact opposite applies.  If your ex says anything about you, it is instantly recorded by your kids as well – so they need to watch their mouths too.

  • Living in constant fear of whose “side” your shared friends will be on.  Whichever parent these people pledge allegiance to will be perceived by the tykes and this inevitably causes them/you anxiety.

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positive spin:  Once things are settled, you then know who your real friends truly are.

  • Determining which rules will be steadfast and should be observed in both parents’ homes.  Is mom saying the kids can stay up to watch Jimmy Fallon, while you want them tucked in before the early edition news broadcast starts?

positive spin:  No matter how contentious your relationship may be with your ex, there will always be some common ground you can reach regarding your kid’s upbringing.

  • Having to hide the emotional lilt in your voice because you physically can’t give your baby a ‘goodnight kiss’ over the phone.

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positive spin:  Again, when you are reunited with your child, their hugs feel that much more magical.

  • Having to show up “childless” to certain extended family functions/holidays because your kid is enjoying the day with your ex and their bizarro family.

positive spin:  Secretly knowing that they have more fun with you and your (possibly equally crazy) clan.

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  • The stabbing pain of hearing your little one cry out “I need mommy/daddy!” …when that parent isn’t you.  It never was all that great before to listen to how you were unneeded in a situation of tantamount importance to them, but now it holds a truly acrimonious tinge.

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positive spin:  Undoubtedly, there are times when they are with your ex and shriek for you in that “end of the world” tone that only children not getting exactly what they want can attain.

  • When you have to ignore/feign that you don’t see the close-knit, smiley family (with both a Mom AND Dad in attendance) enjoying their Pizza Hut dinner feast, while you and you child somberly eat in solitude.

positive spin:  Having the time to focus all of your attention on your kids when you are with them (without the potential distractions of a partner who always seems to want to argue).

  • Not hearing your child’s laughter in the halls when they are at your ex’s for the night.

positive spin: Having license to engage in passionate, grunt-inducing intercourse with a new lover and not having to worry in the slightest that your kid will hear.

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  • When you finally have a new and possibly serious beau, deciding if and when the right time is to present them to your kids.  Will they instantly resent him/her?  Also, maybe this new partner is not good with kids? (Clearly, a deal-breaker – but truly stinks if you like them otherwise)

positive spin:  Inadvertently, your kids can help you quickly weed out people you may be looking at with rose-colored glasses, who are really not going to be great mates in the long run.

  • Feeling the inverse: does your child like your ex’s new “person” more than you??  Will you be “replaced”?

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positive spin:  When these type of questions unsuspectingly pop up in your brain, it’s a good time to take a moment and truly assess the situation.  When you remind yourself that these fears are completely unfounded and irrational, it gives you real clarity and peace of mind.

  • Trying to deal with/suppress feelings of supreme GUILT.  Do my kids think the break-up is my fault?  Are their new problems in school/ extra-curricular activities/PlayStation ultimately my doing??

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positive spin:  If you are really worried about these things, it’s always good to open the lines of communication with your child.  As long as you present any issues in a sensitive manner, your child may be forthcoming and tell you their own fears.  Then the two of you can come to a real place of resolution.

  • Fighting to stay awake at work the day after you had to stay up with your baby as they did battle with a scary cold through the entire night.  When it’s “your night,” being a single parent means having all the responsibly squarely on you.

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positive spin:  At least you get to sleep in when it’s “their” turn.

  • Worrying about how screaming matches with your ex may have negatively affected your children.

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positive spin: Finally letting out that built-up, monumental sigh of relief when you realize you can love and raise your child in a home without constant spousal bickering, mistrust and tension.

  • Staying up at night, wondering if you’ve been doing the right thing.

positive spin: When it finally dawns on you that your child will love you, no matter what.

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-Joe Leone 

The Basics of Successful Coparenting

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“Coparenting” refers to when two separated adults (through divorce, a break-up, or having never been “together”) raise their children as a team after a separation or divorce. While people have been coparenting for ages, the word describing the concept is fairly new. It was brought to the public’s attention by the Associations of Separated Parents in Italy in the early 2000s.

Coparenting can be messy business. The psychology of you, the psychology of your ex, and most importantly, the psychology of your children all make every day a surprise.  As difficult as it can be, it really will behoove you to try to open up communication with your ex to work collectively toward doing what is best for your children.

Boundaries With Your Ex

Divorce is not exactly about agreeing and getting along, but when it comes to the happiness and well-being of your children, it should be. If your circumstances lend themselves to it, commit to specific boundaries with your ex that can define your relationship as coparents. Those boundaries should include specific details about how to deal with one another, even when you are not together. Do your best to come to an agreement with your ex that neither of you will speak negatively about the other person. Then, try to enhance that positive relationship by agreeing to preclude your children from speaking negatively about the other parent.

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Boundaries also include more concrete and easy-to-follow rules, such as those for visitation. Some sources suggest that the parent who drops off a child (to school, practice, etc.) before a visitation switch should never pick up the child and bring him or her to the other parent’s house (after making sure the child is aware of who is picking them up, of course), making each visitation a clear and peaceful transition for your child.

These boundaries with your coparent may be difficult, and what works in theory may not work in reality. Keep open communication with your coparent, and support his or her relationship with your child. Doing this may require a willingness to bend or change the rules for situations in which they do no work out.

Boundaries With Yourself

Since you are the only person you can control, you can control yourself with the best interests of your child in mind. Sometimes this can be extremely hard, especially if your coparent isn’t, well, cooperating. Regardless of the other person’s actions, Dr. Phil advises against allowing yourself to use your child to get back at your ex, which includes digging for information or interfering with their relationship in a harmful way. This may include refraining from asking your child to choose between you or your coparent, as well as holding back from revealing frustrated feelings and aggravation if your child tells you something you don’t like about the other parent.

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Openness With Your Children

Believe it or not, among all the things parents should not do, there is some consensus as to what coparents should do. Psychology Today offers general advice on talking to your children about divorce and coparenting, making it paramount that coparents, first and foremost, allow their kids to be kids. Proactively keeping your children out of adult problems will help them understand that the divorce is not about them, and that it is not their fault.

While your children’s childhood needs to be preserved, there are some heavy life lessons they will simply have to deal with because of your divorce, and it may force them to grow up faster. Be willing to talk openly with your children about your divorce, and provide them with a safe environment in which they can ask questions, share opinions, and expect to be treated with respect. To bolster this, be present and supportive of your children as they deal with various and unpredictable emotions that arise regarding both your divorce and outside problems they encounter. Being emotionally present for ten minutes is better than being physically present but emotionally distracted for thirty. If your child is concerned about the play at school or his or her skills on the soccer field, listen and try your best to give deference to their issue, even if it seems small to you.

No one said coparenting is easy, and there is no right way to do it, but it can be done in a thoughtful and focused manner that is best for all parties involved. Parenting is a duty and a right, and the concept of coparenting is borne of that duty. Entering into each situation with thoughtfulness and intent can help you create the best world for your child.

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Understanding Modern Child Custody

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via fin6.us

As with many of the legal tenets associated with divorce, child custody laws vary from state to state.  There are, however, a few basic principles that all states currently comply with when determining how and where a child of separated/divorced parents will reside and be reared.

The phrase typically associated with the determination of which parent will be granted custody of a child (or children) is the “best interests of the child.”  This is what a judge seeks to find during the course of divorce proceedings.  When sole custody is granted, the norm now is to pick the parent that exhibits the most suitable living situation for the child (the best scenario for a child’s mindset and tangible needs).  This differs greatly than the method used up until roughly 40 years ago, where the mother was routinely, and almost automatically, granted full custody.  Unless it was proven that the mother was grossly unfit to care for her child, she would usually be deemed the sole custodian.
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